Heading down to the local: Craft beer and local economic development in rural Australia

Professor Neil Argent
 Geography and Planning, UNE

Thursday, August 13, 1 – 2 pm

C02 Lecture Theatre

Earth Sciences Building 

The Australasian micro-brewery sector has experienced healthy growth in production and consumption over the last five years, accompanied by spectacular spatial and numerical expansion. These trends fly in the face of the supposed ‘iron laws’ of economic geography, and contrast strongly with performance of the mainstream beer brewing sector. Arguably, the success of the Australasian craft beer sector is substantially dependent on two factors: 1) the production of a diverse range of ‘real’ beers; and 2) canny marketing strategies – including sophisticated place-marketing of micro-breweries and their beers – which have elevated boutique beer and its consumption to the status of a positional good. Drawing on field research in rural New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia, this paper discusses the role of place and space in the locational, marketing and overall business strategies of local craft brewers, and investigates the contributions that these small businesses make to the regional economies within they are located (i.e. their economic embeddedness). It also considers the role of the regulatory space within which these firms operate in facilitating or constraining the sector’s dynamics. The paper argues that, in an industry in which the search for scale economies is ubiquitous and predatory behaviour is rife, the craft beer sector is currently leading a re-localisation of food and drink production and consumption across regional Australia.